Ryan Reaves was beloved by his New York Rangers teammates. Ultimately, though, the veteran forward became a luxury the club could no longer afford.
The Rangers traded Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round draft pick Wednesday, doing away with Reaves’ $1.75 million salary-cap hit in a transaction that will create desperately-needed space ahead of the March 3 trade deadline.
Reaves had fallen out of the lineup rotation, as he was a healthy scratch for seven of the last eight games. The 36-year-old’s agent had reportedly asked for a trade earlier this week as it had become clear that his time in a Blueshirt was likely to be very limited going forward.
Reaves’ arrival last offseason in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights was part of general manager Chris Drury’s attempt to toughen up the roster in his first full season in charge, reuniting Reaves with former Knights coach Gerard Gallant. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder delivered, bringing swagger, edge and an intimidation factor that had long been missing from the Rangers. In addition, his leadership, especially for a group of young players who looked up to him, proved invaluable. Reaves’ needling, jokester personality also brought energy to a club desperate for it.
Reaves’ Salary Hampered Rangers’ Ability to Make Upgrades
Reaves’ fearsome forechecking added another dimension that the club badly needed, as he totaled 279 hits in 2021-22, many of the teeth-rattling variety. Yet it became obvious this season that Reaves wasn’t providing nearly enough impact at an advanced hockey age, with ugly metrics confirming what the eye test showed. He had been supplanted at the fourth-line right-wing spot by Julien Gauthier, who brings more speed and skill.
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Given the Rangers’ tight cap situation, the salary of Reaves, to whom Drury gave an extension through this season, became unworkable. The Blueshirts, who have been carrying a 23-man roster, had almost no room to maneuver when it came to injuries. More importantly, they weren’t going to be able to make significant moves to improve the team. With Reaves’ cap hit off the books, the Rangers are on pace to accrue $6.7 million of space leading up to the March 3 deadline, which would put them in play to acquire someone like Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane, should he become available.
While moving on from Reaves became necessary, his departure is likely to leave a void. His fiery pregame routine and “Shesty, release us!” shout to cue goaltender Igor Shesterkin to lead the Blueshirts onto the ice became part of the fabric of the club over the past season-plus, making him a fan favorite. Reaves’ nastiness and physicality were also factors at times in last season’s playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes.
It also remains to be seen whether opponents who routinely took physical liberties against the Rangers before Reaves’ arrival – the New York Islanders, Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals and old friend Tom Wilson come to mind – go back to doing so with one of the NHL’s most feared enforcers out of the picture.
Reaves’ time on Broadway was short and wiping away his salary this season was unavoidable. His impact both on and off the ice for an impressionable young group, however, was obvious. Time will tell just how much the Rangers miss him.
I’m a resident of the Chicago area by way of White Plains, NY. I worked for the Associated Press sports department in New York City for 10 years before moving to the Midwest in 2005, when the AP’s then-internet division entered into a joint venture with STATS LLC. I worked for STATS for 11 years, until 2016. I’m very excited to be a part of The Hockey Writers.